February 18, 2012

A quake milestone next week - one year later...

I stumbled over an article I hadn't seen today...http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1359354/New-Zealand-earthquake-A-mothers-message-beneath-Christchurch-rubble.html

It was full of pictures.. that reminded me of the day.

I had reason to look at a facebook album of before and after pictures again this week. Nothing new - I watched Scott Spensley make it and was shocked at the damage then. But I cried again this week at the realisation that most of the places have now gone completely and I could no longer really remember what the "before" had looked like.

Ruth from Ruth's Reflections has said perfectly what has been going through my mind this week as we approach the anniversary of the Feb 2011 quake next Wednesday.

Everyone living near Christchurch has been affected in some degree, and most of us are tired, emotionally, mentally, and physically.    Among people I talk with the consensus is that this year is likely to be even harder than last because of the incredible difficulties that individuals and organisations are facing.
I have two pleas for the anniversary day:
1  May everyone be free to choose how they commemorate the earthquake (e.g. not be forced to stay at work if they’d rather not)
2  May everyone outside Christchurch watch the film “When a city falls” which will be shown on TV3.  From the programme in the “Listener” it seems they will have the decency to show it without advertisements.  It’s hard for people who haven’t experienced it to understand what we’ve been through here and this film tells it honestly.
Someone said to me today that it takes two years to get over a major event such as we have experienced.  I asked “When do we start counting those two years?  From February?  From June? From December?”  We continue to experience a seismic event that is unique in recorded human history.  We need to take care of ourselves.
This week has been harder than usual for us at work, starting a new set of students, and although a week earlier than in 2011, we did all the things we had started to do last year. It is a relief to get through the process without an earthquake... but most of us have had bouts of anxiety, panic, or nightmares to show for it.  My dog, Poppy, was up there during the Feb quake, trapped in the stairwell with my colleague. I have gradually been taking her back up to get her used to it again. We noticed she has been quivering and panting a lot at at times and suspected it was earthquake related;  a geonet check showed she was indeed reacting to smaller ones, 3.0's, that we weren't even feeling.

Meanwhile the uncertainty, ongoing demolitions, constantly appearing empty spaces, housing losses and changes are certainly wearing me down. This week there have been mall and business closures as government inquiries and new building codes are ensuring more stringent checks being made. This means that a number of older, concrete buildings are being closed in Rangiora, Merivale Mall, Riccarton main road, even further south in Timaru. Many places are only getting a few hours notice to close their businesses and clear out buildings, if they are lucky.... many people will just lose their jobs.

Scott has been involved in clearing the soon to be demolished Convention Centre this week.  It has been totally stripped down to the concrete... he said the smell of the kitchens was indescribable.

Next week he will be salvaging stuff from The Town Hall - no official verdict yet on it's fate, but the stuff will have to come out anyway.

Across the road from the Convention Centre,, the Crowne Plaza hotel is coming down.  These places are all examples of soft stripping... where the contents can be taken away before the giant diggers arrive.


This week two towers of the Park Terrace apartment blocks have been urgently demolished - this time the rubble is full of furniture, bedding and possessions - too dangerous to salvage it.


Interesting it has taken a year for it to become urgent, but the December quakes pushed many buildings beyond recovery. Apparently 600 buildings are already demolished - and there are another 600 to go in the central area alone.... the list feels endless. Then they can start on the houses, the roads, and finish the drains, cables, rebuilding....

I can recommend looking at Ross and Moira's photos. They are doing a wonderful job of recording the changes to the city for the historical archives:
and if you are on Facebook they are: https://www.facebook.com/CHCH.EQ.Photos

The constant inquiries into building collapses and the deaths of the people, (now upgraded to 185), in February, have exposed a myriad of processes that failed to protect people after the first September quake.  Other parts of New Zealand have started closing buildings for quake strengthening too.

The papers are full of articles - here are just a few examples:


I would like to do something next Wednesday to commemorate the day. Scott will be at the Hagley Park Memorial Service singing with The Christchurch Pops Choir, so I am hoping to go there, to hear them, meet up with some other supportive people and mark the day.

Alternative choices are available - for example:

The River of Flowers

many Cantabrians expected an event in Hagley Park similar to the memorial service held previously. A significant number of respondents however supported having local events that allow communities to be together to commemorate, and to look to the future.
The River of Flowers is our collaborative attempt to provide these opportunities for people to commemorate the day in their own way and with their community.
On 22 February 2012 from 8am to 8pm, people will be able to drop a flower in the River and write a message for a Tree of Hope. From 12:30 to 1:30pm, local community groups will host the sites.  At 12:51 two minutes silence will be held, followed by the release of red helium-filled biodegradable balloons.
 The River of Flowers is an opportunity to:
  • come together as a city through a river of flowers
  • let go through dropping flowers into the river
  • hold two minutes of silence to remember those who have died, been injured, or who have lost their homes
  • write notes of hope and post them on a tree of hope
  • acknowledge the importance of the river(s) in the life and heritage of the city
  • give a token of respect back to the river(s)
  • show the connections between communities - particularly those most affected
  • celebrate our strength - resilience and supporting one another

One of our lecturers at Polytech, Henry,  has also started his second road cone campaign - one we can all help with this week:

It is certainly not all sad - there continue to be pluses among the changes; it has been nice to meet new people, have different friendships, changed priorities and re-appreciate the small stuff, families, a roof over our heads. Just today we talked at work about how good it was to enjoy certain things - and I mentioned that just having constant power and water still seems a huge positive to me!

You really don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

I hope you will think of us all at 12.51pm Wednesday 22nd Feb as we observe two minutes silence.


  1. Few who are living today and who has not lived through all that Cantabrians have lived through over the last year can have any true idea what it has been like. Perhaps some of the very senior residents of Napier when the 1931 earthquake struck can remember it. But for people like me who have followed this blog over the last year it is unimaginable. That does not stop it having been an extremely harrowing and emotional experience. The difference is that when I have wiped the tears temporarily from my eyes and the thoughts temporarily from my mind I am free of the aftershocks and living with the daily physicality of the City.

    I have said it many times before and I can but repeat it: I cannot imagine what you are all going through and my heart goes out to you.

    1. Thanks again GB - good to know people havent forgotten about us :)

  2. I'm appreciating being one of the new friendships this last 12 months. Hugs.

  3. I will never forget. I was there last year, first visit back to my beloved university city for twenty years. Also my Birthday... Hugs from a (almost) total stranger.


Comments welcome....always love to hear what you think!


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